03-21-2019 Watervliet Township plans numerous public hearings before final vote to adopt medical

AND THEY ARE OFF… An estimated 200 runners and walkers taking off for the 4th annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K and walk. Chilly weather did not deter these runners from the 9 a.m. race start in Coloma Saturday morning. For top race results see the Coloma Press Box on Page 10. (TCR photo by Teresa Smithers)

Watervliet Township plans numerous public hearings before final vote to adopt medical marijuana ordinance

By Annette Christie

Watervliet Township officials are giving the public multiple opportunities to address the possibility of medical marijuana facilities being allowed in the township. At their Monday, March 18, 2019 meeting a list of public meetings were released on the subject in addition to a press release to bring the public up to speed on how the township board got to where they are now.

It was first during a special meeting on December 5, 2018 that the township board voted unanimously to opt in, or permit licensed medical marijuana facilities within the jurisdictional boundaries of the township and instructed the township’s Planning Commission to study and research the matter and draft a Medical Marijuana Facilities Ordinance that would permit certain types of facilities in certain zoning districts within the township and impose certain restrictions and conditions controlling their operation.

After several meetings and exhaustive research which included visits and on-site inspections of existing facilities in other municipalities, the Planning Commission has drafted a Medical Marijuana Facilities Ordinance that they feel strikes a balance of permitting the free enterprise of those investing in those operations and protecting the interests of the residents of Watervliet Township.

The State of Michigan’s authorizing statute permits five different types of medical marijuana facilities that may be located in any jurisdiction, being: grow facilities where the medical marijuana plants are grown; processing facilities where the plants are turned into usable products for those individuals possessing medical marijuana cards; provisioning centers where authorized individuals may purchase medical marijuana products; safety compliance facilities which are testing labs that verify the products are safe to use and possess the proper amount of medically beneficial ingredients; and secure transportation which is the only method, permitted by law, that the raw materials and processed goods can be transported to testing facilities or provisioning centers.

The Planning Commission’s draft ordinance tentatively permits not more than six grow facilities and not more than three processing facilities that can only be located in the industrial zoning district. The ordinance further stipulated that the township will not permit more than four provisioning centers and there shall be no limit on safety compliance or secure transport facilities all of which must be located in the commercial zoning district only. All facilities must apply to the State of Michigan and to the township for licenses to operate and must possess both licenses prior to operation.

Supervisor Dan Hutchins commented that he is not aware of any comments by the public either for or against and he fears that when the official action is taken, it will be then that members of the public will question why, but at that point, it will be too late. He wants to make sure that the public has plenty of opportunities to comment either way to both the Planning Commission as well the Township Board which includes daytime hearings, nighttime hearings, and even a Saturday morning.

Public Hearings scheduled

The Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on March 26, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. at the Watervliet Township Hall, 4959 M-140 Hwy. to hear any questions, concerns or comments regarding these facilities and the content of the proposed ordinance. In addition, a public hearing will be held prior to the regular Township Board meeting on Monday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. Finally, on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. the public will have one more opportunity to speak.

Hutchins commented that this whole process has been done with the utmost transparency. Hutchins commented, “I don’t see this train getting off the rails, by June or earlier I would expect it to be approved.”

All individuals with an int